This is one of those sermons that I had to be a bit careful but as I blog about it now I realize (because of the fact this post might very well be read in other parts of the world) that my caution is in need of being double. Other cultures still live this way and Christianity is still practiced in many places with the idea of women keeping their head covered up. That said I must say that I can read the last line of this passage (verse 16) and realize that Paul is not being dogmatic but really engaged in an argument of reasonableness. After two chapters on liberty, the last thing I think Paul wanted to make this is a contentious issue. The problem is it has become one mostly because are looking at the application and fighting about it rather than looking at the principles involved. I always try to determine the principle of something by basically asking if I was thrust onto a desert island naked how would I do this? The fact that Paul’s culture and personal opinion are very evident in this passage but the principles are still golden.
In the first place Paul lists a principle he writes about in several places – God the authority of man, man the authority of women. The question of being under proper authority is still very present and Paul want this understood when it comes to the sexes. How this plays out I think is going to be very different but Paul is talking about either hats or hair here and the more modern translations go with hair. Remember naked on a desert island? How would a couple represent this authority in such a situation? He would keep his hair cut and she would let hers grow practically but it goes deeper than that as in such situations, one has to have the final authority. Paul says this belongs to the nature of man.
This is not readily accepted in modern Western society but it goes back to the idea of part of accepting who you are and part of that acceptance is to accept your male or female nature as the way God created you. Paul is very clear elsewhere that being one or the other does not affect the nature of salvation but it does affect the nature of society and culture. Like it or not men and women are different and have different strengths and weaknesses and both sides need to be Ok with that both with themselves and with each other. Up until recent history people did not have the ability to change sexes and even now such process is fraught with peril. My main concern for transgender folks is that there is a massive lack of acceptance of who you are in such a state and changing genders will not change that. Just because you change sexes it does not magically erase your internal struggle. This is why, IMHO, that the suicide rate in transgender is so very high. Fact is most of our discontent comes from simply not accepting who we are and trying to be someone else we are not made to be.
I see much struggle in my society between the sexes. Most of this is just friendly jibbing but some have taken it to very definite extremes. One the one hand radical feminists have proposed we live in a patriarchy still (I strongly disagree with this) and their solution is to reduce the population of men and severely curtail their rights. On the flip side is the MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) community who want to discard women altogether because of the hostility ( I also disagree strongly with this). There are many positions in between. The real problem is lack of self acceptance and other acceptance. This war ends once people simply accept who they are and accept the authority they are under because of it.
The crossroads in this case is a hard one. It is not easy to look at this passage and realize that all of us fall under authority because of who we are and our choice to become Christians. This means acceptance of the authorities over us and who we are in the power of that authority. The alternative route is rebellion and self-hatred.